Grab a cup of coffee/tea. Make yourself comfortable. This article is going to be quite a read. I also want to mention explicitly: cooldowns matter but not at all cost. It is much more important to prioritize the safety of the team. Your cooldowns come second. Get a feel for a fight, see when the best times are to use your cooldowns. After that, see where there is room to squeeze in more. The tips in this article will help you achieve just that. Especially in long term farm content like Hellfire Citadel. As a concept HPS does not matter to the extent it is being discussed in this article. However, if you are looking for ways to increase your relative output. If your raid team is giving you a hard time because of your output. Or if you just want to compete with others on numbers, then you will probably find this interesting.
Shamans are (rather) cooldown dependent. Optimizing the amount of times you use your cooldowns in a fight, can make a huge difference. The higher up the raiding ladder you go, the more you will encounter fellow healers that are great at this particular skill. Now you may ask, this cooldown dependency – is this shaman specific? Yes and no. Yes because we just have that many cooldowns in comparison to others. And no because if other healers do not use their cooldowns in an optimized way, they can find themselves (somewhat) behind as well. This is a generic healer skill. But as this is chainheal.com, I will discuss the resto shaman in-depth.
Link your logs
As a regular visitor of our website, you may have found yourself in our ‘Link your logs’ section. It is a place on our forums where we give feedback to those in need of a few pointers. Optimizing cooldowns is something we mention regularly. Which is why I decided to write this article (Hi Fistfury! *waves*).
Differences in difficulties
On mythic difficulty – especially in cutting edge progress – cooldowns are (close to) completely figured out. They are assigned to specific abilities in specific phases. This is where add-ons like Exorsus Raid Tools (they have a note functionality) and Angry Assignments were shining this expansion. Everyone has an overview on their screen: who uses what cooldown, for a specific ability, in a specific phase.
If you are currently progressing in mythic, chances are this is barely a thing in comparison to the start of the tier. This makes sense. Strategies have been optimized and the overall output has increased. The valor upgrades and (maxed out) rings are a direct nerf to the instance. In normal and heroic, some cooldowns are usually asked for by raid leaders. It is not strange for an average heroic raid leader to only call for the cooldowns they are familiar with – often these are far from all available cooldowns.
Four categories of raid cooldowns
If you are a pro raider, feel free to skip this part. I feel like cooldowns in general, could use a little clarification. Especially for those that find themselves familiar with one or two classes, but have no idea about the rest. I tend to divide raid cooldowns into four categories. The first one is healing cooldowns. Think of Healing Tide Totem and Ascendance as a shaman. Other healers have for example Tranquility (druid), Revival (monk), Divine Hymn (holy priest), disc priest with their Archangel (although they all say you can’t call it a cooldown) and same for holy paladins (Avenging Wrath).
The second category of raid cooldowns is AoE damage mitigation. As a shaman we have a big gun: Spirit Link Totem. It provides both damage reduction and distribution of damage taken as a group. Other examples are: Smoke Bomb (rogue), Rallying Cry (warrior), Power Word: Barrier (disc priest), death knight Anti-Magic Zone (talent).
The third category is external (single-target) damage reduction cooldowns. Sadly, earth shield is not a cooldown ;-D. Life Cocoon (monk), Pain Suppression (disc priest), Ironbark (druid), Hand of Sacrifice and Hand of Protection (paladin) [using HoP will reset aggro on the target], Vigilance [talent](warrior) are all examples of single target cooldowns.
Last but not least, the grand weapon of raid cooldowns: Heroism (ally shaman), or Time Warp (mage), or Bloodlust (horde shaman), or Ancienst Hysteria (beast mastery hunter). Of course there are personal cooldowns as well, but I consider those to be something different when we are discussing raid cooldowns.
Back to the story
Point is, it is not this straightforward anymore. You can easily find yourself with both cooldowns left at the end of the fight – because the raid leader never called for them. Perhaps you find yourself waiting for the ‘right moment’ to pop your cooldowns (healing tide and your mastery does most when they drop low right?). So you end up popping your cooldowns just once towards the end. But all that time at the start where nothing really happened, was that not a waste? Or maybe your healing tide was awful. Because when there was finally some damage coming in, the druid popped tranquility or (worse) the monk used revival. If this is something you recognize, then you should definitely continue reading.
In the previous ‘healing skills’ articles, we discussed the importance of spending your mana: hitting 0 mana exactly when the fight ends (Healing Skills #1). After that, we discussed the basics of diving into your combat logs to reflect on your performance (Healing Skills #2). This time, we are going to see how you can optimize your healing cooldowns: healing tide totem and ascendance.
The basic principle is simple: use your cooldowns as often as possible and sensible. Sounds simple right? But why is it so difficult to put in practice? I have a few tips for you.
Tip #1: know that ‘fight length’ is a thing
This might sound obvious to most people, but I am going to share it regardless. The general idea of optimizing your output as a healer (similar to DPS) is looking at fight length. How long does a fight last? A comfortable 7 Minutes? Ok, that means you can probably use both your cooldowns three times (bare minimum twice)- both healing tide and ascendance are on a 3-minute-cooldown.
Be honest and be critical. Think back (or look up the logs) on the last few fights that took 7ish minutes. How often did you use healing tide and ascendance? Was it really three times? With some heroic logs I am being asked to look at, I find healing tide and ascendance being cast once (if both are used at all). Considering shamans are rather cooldown dependent, how much of a difference would you reckon it makes? Imagine using healing tide three times instead of once. That is a big difference in numbers.
Tip #2: know the facts – don’t guess
The traditional way of reflecting on your performance is by combat logging your fights. Do not neglect this. If you have been postponing – stop it and start logging today. Warlords of Draenor really has been the expansion of wacraftlogs.com, so I can highly recommend using this website to analyze your logs with. Being able to look back on your logs is amazing. When you have live logging enabled, you can analyze your strategies in between pulls – as it will be uploaded immediately. The combat logs will tell you exactly how long a fight lasted.
Tip #3: what to do when you’re being held back
You do not have to maximize your cooldowns at all times. Sometimes there is very good reason not to use a cooldown right at the start. Especially in cutting edge progress, no one cares about your HPS as long as the strategy works for the group. If you need to sacrifice HPS for safety – than that is the way to go.
My raid leader is particularly set on me using healing tide and ascendance at specific times on Mannoroth mythic. Because of that, I cannot push the maximum possible amount of cooldowns out in the fight time. Resulting in me often falling back on my fellow healer that fight. As we have been farming for months, I want it to change.
What I ended up doing (aside from being sneaky sometimes and popping my cooldowns regardless) is looking at my logs. Trying to find the optimal time for me to use my cooldowns around those ‘required’ moments. More on this later – as I have a little something for you!
Tip #4: knowing when other healers are using their cooldowns
Knowing when other healers are using their cooldowns, is extremely valuable. I can personally recommend a little add-on called ‘Vocal Raid Assistant’ by Nitrakgaming (through Curse). This will say ‘tranquility’ when its used – similar for other cooldowns. You can configure which cooldowns you want to be called out.
I know some people have huge displays of all available cooldowns on their screen, but that is not my preference. For a few months (when raid leading) I had an add-on running on a large part of my screen. If I needed to know what cooldowns were still available, I could fall back on it. Later I realized that I barely ever looked at this information. Hence, I removed the add-on. At this point, I know what cooldowns my fellow healers have. I also know when they are supposed (or prefer) to use them. Hearing when they actually trigger them, is generally all the info I need.
Tip #5: knowing when cooldowns are justified
So let’s assume your cooldowns are free to be spent. You are in a pug, or your guild run dabbles through that difficulty without any problems. You just read that you are supposed to squeeze in as many cooldowns as possible. You are waiting for damage to come in, but nothing really happens. Knowledge about the fight and timers are very important. If I know that a certain ability is going to hit the raid which makes the raid frames move (even slightly), than that just justified my cooldown.
Do not be scared to squeeze them in there. If you know you need them up at the 4-minute-mark, you can use them in the first minute whenever you want. Something as basic as a Fel Chakram on Iskar, or ticking debuffs on Council is reason enough.
Tip #6: influencing your fellow healers
Oh yes. We are now getting to the dirty part. Think of Kormrok. You know how he casts an ability called Pound? Everyone takes AoE damage. The perfect time to use healing tide. However, the druid in your raid might feel the same about this. How do you prevent him from using tranquility? You could pay a priest to leap the druid the moment he starts casting his tranq. But that strategy will probably not improve your popularity in the guild. What I am speaking of is much more subtle.
If you know a specific ability is coming up that would be great for a cooldown. Pre-cast your cooldown. When the raid is full health, other healers will not be as inclined to pop their cooldown as they would be otherwise. This requires a little practice though. For example, the pound on Kormrok – try popping it 1-2 seconds early. Pounding on Reaver, same story. Usually people are a little low just before. Don’t be afraid to pop healing tide 3 seconds early to top people off and heal through the 3/4th of the pound.
If your timers are still located on the outskirts of your screen: this is the time to change that. Knowing when the raid is going to take damage is essential if you want to be smart about it. All raid timers can be moved and resized (both the long and short running ones). Make sure you’re right on top of it. What is important to track, should be easy to track. Don’t cast away your timers to exotic destinations on your screen.
But wait a minute..
Let’s say you worked out your cooldowns. You know you want to have your Healing Tide available in the 7th minute to counter some major AoE as the boss is about to die. Therefore, you decided to use Healing Tide at the 4 minute mark which lines up nicely with a few predictable abilities that hit the raid at that specific time. This gives you a minute at the start of the fight to squeeze in a so called ‘sneaky healing tide’. A healing tide that is by no means needed, but oh so nice to pad your blue healing numbers.
How do you know that minute has not passed yet? How do you know it is still safe? Behold, a little add-on called ‘CombatTime‘ by oscarucb (through Curse). It is a timer that starts counting when combat starts. There you have it! Next time you work out your cooldown strategy there is no excuse. You are going to use that sneaky healing tide and you are going to beat them all!
Good luck and have fun.